Are Your Customers 'Winterspreading'?

A new epidemic is spreading throughout the US this winter and it's hurting the restaurant world.

No, we're not talking about E.coli or the norovirus. We're talking about winterspreading, a seasonal pandemic that has no known cure... except for maybe spring or unseasonably warm weather (thanks, global warming!).

Winterspreading is like manspreading, but gender-neutral. It's when people take off their winter layers and spread out beyond their assigned seating area. If there are no coat racks and not a lot of room at their own table, many customers will put their hats, coats, scarfs, gloves and other outer layers on the seats around them, making those seats unavailable for other customers. What is actually a party of four now becomes a party of eight.

And it's hurting bars and restaurant's bottom line.

It can be a big deal on a busy night when every seat is needed and wanted by another customer. If you walk into a bar and you see that three of the stools have coats on them, maybe you decide to go someplace else.
— Darron Cardosa, Queens waiter

Many customers will just assume someone's already sitting there or that the seat is being saved for someone else. And if a customer suspects that a chair is taken because of winterspreading, most are too embarrassed to say anything. They leave and the restaurant takes the hit.

It's especially harsh in big city establishments like New York where real estate is at a premium and many places don't have the luxury of offering coat racks or pegs for their customers.

Given the usurious rent that most NYC restaurants pay for their spaces, there’s rarely room for a coat check. That doesn’t mean your coat gets an extra seat—unless it’s buying an entree.
— Jake Dobkin, Gothamists's 'Ask a Native New Yorker' columnist,

File "coat check" with Walkmen and affordable education under "Relics of the Past."

Barkeeps and restaurant operators should empower their staff to ask customers infected with winterspreading to keep their clothes to their own area. Coats should be draped on their chairs or stuffed next to them in their booths. Hats and gloves can be kept in coat pockets or sleeves. If your venue has a coat rack, pegs or the mythical coat check, let them know.

Your establishment shouldn't lose business because of rude customers. Take charge. Just don't be a dick if you can help it.

So, has your establishment seen an uptick in winterspreading this year? How are you dealing with it? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature image by Gregory Tran.